Sorry I haven’t blogged the last two days. We were v busy and v tired. Napped both days. And then stayed out late having tasty, but late, dinners. So I just ran out of time for blogging! I will catch you up on Portugal, though!
We took the night train from Madrid, which was fine. We had our own room and slept so-so. I had forgotten about the time change, so I set my alarm to get us up 20 minutes before we were due to arrive. It wasn’t until after I was done “getting ready” (I use that term loosely) that I remembered we gain an hour going to Portugal, so we had another hour to sleep. Doh. But we both went back to bed and the conductor notified us when we were 20 mins away, which did not happen on my previous night train, so apparently I could’ve left it to him, but I didn’t know about it!
We got out of the train station and took the metro to our hostel, which was steps from the metro station. Score. We couldn’t check-in yet (not even check-in and pay but get our room key later), but they let us partake in the free breakfast. By exception, she said! So that was nice. We then set out to explore Lisbon and took the Tram 28, which is recommended to get a feel for the city and get to see much of the city. We were both tired and nearly falling asleep (ok, we both nodded off at one point). We decided then to see the Se, which is the Cathedral. It was very pretty, and quite old, but not what I was expecting. I was expecting something much grander. But I am still glad to have seen it.
I thought we were going to go back to the hostel and relax before being able to check in and shower, but Liz wanted to tackle the Castle that overlooks the city. One thing neither of us really realized about Lisbon before we got there was that it was basically Europe’s San Francisco. So. Many. Hills. It was basically straight uphill to the Castle, which kind of sucked. But it had incredible views of the city and the water. Oh yeah, and the Golden Gate Bridge-East. Seriously, so much like San Fran. But it was absolutely gorgeous. The Castle was ruins, basically, but it was fun to climb around in it and explore. I was quite surprised to see beggars in there (well, they play the recorder and think you should give them money for that). So they paid 8.50 to get in to beg for money? They think that’s good financial sense?
Anyway, we then made our way, very difficultly, I might add, down to a post office. I was needing to mail postcards (seriously no post offices in Madrid…couldn’t find them anywhere), so it was a priority. We finally found the one on the map. It was closed. Because of course it was. Thankfully there was a lady sweeping the sidewalk and I looked at her and said, closed? She told me where one would be open and showed me on the map. So nice of her. So we went there and I got stamps and mailed the postcards. We then had lunch nearby at a place called “Vitamin”. It served only salads and sandwiches. And weird juice that came with my salad. I did not drink it (after tasting it). It felt good to have a big ol’ salad!
Then we returned to the hostel and showered and napped before going out for dinner. We made a pit stop at the water first, because there was a gorgeous square right on the water and the sun was setting. It was really beautiful! Then we started looking for a place to eat along this pedestrian mall area near where we were staying. The people are SO aggressive. It was like the sales people at the Buckle on crack. Like the hosts got a commission for each table they sat or something. I purposely said no to some of the places because they were way too aggressive. Until we learned that they were going to be like that everywhere. I was craving pizza and Liz wanted some specific Portuguese dishes. We found a place that served both! I also had a great drink there, but I don’t know how to pronounce it!
The next day we got up and headed out to Belem, a neighborhood a few kilometers north of the city center. We took a tram to get there and it was easily the worst experience ever. At least for someone with a large “personal space bubble”. We got on and had to stand. No worries. Then a few stops later the cars were crammed with people. It was like a clown car in reverse. People just smashed their way in so that we were literally body-to-body. And one lady decided she could fit in the iota of space between me and the guy in front of me. Let’s just say that did not go over very well. I may have made it slightly more uncomfortable for her. So I had beer belly dude on the left side of me, butt dude to my southwest, stupid lady on my right side, and a pole in front of me. Later, the guy directly behind me decided it would be cool to just recline backwards into me instead of holding himself upright. So my shoulderblades got a little work there. It was awful. Just very very awful. Clearly violating some code, but apparently the tram drivers Do. Not. Care.
We stopped at the first café we found to have pasteis de nata. A traditional custard pastry/tart. I had one small one because I’m not a huge fan of custard but definitely wanted to try it. I also had a wee little cronut (no idea that was what it was until I bit into it), and then another small pastry delight. We then walked toward the monastery and tower, which is what we went out there to see, and were stopped by the police and asked to walk on the other side of the road. Um, ok. Where we saw a semi-large gathering of people. It took us awhile before I overheard someone say “changing of the guard.” Well, let’s just say there were slightly fewer people there than at Buckinham Palace!
We went into the church connected to the monastery but Mass was being said, so we only had access to the back. It was a very pretty church, so I would have preferred to explore the whole thing. We then went into the Cloister, which we imagined it so quiet and peaceful, without all of us tourists. Then we Went to the tower, aka Torre de Belem. It was a fortress tower meant to protect the shores of Lisbon. It was interesting, to say the least. It was a spiral staircase that was controlled by red and green lights/arrows on each level/floor. But apparently that’s much too difficult for people. Or the whole of them have never driven a vehicle before and have no idea that red means stop and green means go. It was a tiny spiral staircase, so there couldn’t be people going up and down at the same time. We went up on a green light and were met by idiots coming down. We stopped at a floor before the top and when we again had a green light to go up, we were again met with people coming down. I plowed through them, telling them I had a green light. Liz appreciated that I blazed the trail and made me go first when it was time to go down and idiots were again coming up. Liz has taken to calling me a linebacker on this trip, and not just when I’m wearing my hulking backpack!
We then made our way back into city center and had lunch at the plaza on the water. It was lovely and I had a white sangria. We then decided we needed naps again, so back to the hostel and asleep we went. I felt much better, even though I had slept close to 10.5 hours the night before. We got ready and went to a late dinner at a place called Mercado da Ribiera. Liz called it a food court, but it was so much more than a food court. Or at least a glorified and higher class food court! But I had a cider! A Somersby. The bartender asked if I knew it and I said, no, but I would like one. It was 2.50. So cheap. It had great ambience and was an excellent choice for dinner!
We got up early to get on the 8:24 train to Lagos, on the southern coast of Portugal for our day at the beach. Except I got us on the wrong 8:24 train. I don’t know how it happened. We were to take an Intercity train (which I’ve taken in about every country I’ve been in), at 8:24. There were two trains at that time and only one was listed as an IC train. So we got on that one. Thankfully the conductor came around before the train made the first stop and realized my error. He wrote a note on the back of my ticket and told us to get off at the next stop and take the next train back into Lisbon (we were about 15 mins away), go to the ticket booth and asked for a new ticket on the 10:20 train. So we did that and our request was granted. But we lost 2 hours. We were supposed to get in at noon, perfect for beach time! Instead we got in at 2:30. Boo. But we got a cab (that stopped at the bus station so I could run in and get my ticket for the morning), and brought us to our hotel. It was a relatively cheap taxi, too, as I feared it would be quite expensive. The driver’s English was great and he was a wealth of knowledge. I wondered if he didn’t also work for the tourist board! He told us that he knew of Boston, NYC, and San Fran, but nothing else. We told him we were from the middle of the country and he was disappointed that we were far from the sea. So I told him about Lake Superior, but that didn’t seem to appease him!
We got to the hotel and into our swimsuits and out on the beach. It’s gorgeous. I specifically picked a hotel on this beach (Dona Ana) due to the rock formations. It’s just gorgeous!! We had a great time on the beach, causing me to look ahead to the end of this week with anticipation. After 2 days (a day and a half after travel time) in Seville, I have 3 days at the beach in the south of Spain. Can’t wait!! Now we’re getting ready to go out to a nice dinner on Liz’s last night here, as I have to leave her in the morning at a God awful time to catch the bus, so it’s our last quality time together!! It’s been a wonderful time with her and I am going to miss her!!